Buzz Aldrin, as an Apollo 11 astronaut, is one of only twelve men to have walked on the moon. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, founded a rocket design company, Starcraft Boosters, Inc., and founded the ShareSpace Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to opening the doors to space tourism for all people. His Reaching for the Moon (illustrated by Wendell Minor) was a New York Times bestseller and a Book Sense pick. He lives in Los Angeles.
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Five questions for Buzz Aldrin from The Horn Book
A payload full of books is being published to mark the anniversary of the first moonwalk, among them Buzz Aldrin's Look to the Stars, a picture book, expansively illustrated by Wendell Minor, that outlines the history of flight from Copernicus to the Mars rovers. Given the occasion of Aldrin's second book for children (the first was Reaching for the Moon, also illustrated by Minor), I couldn't resist taking the opportunity to talk with one of the first men on the moon.
1. How does having walked on the moon change how you look at the world?
Being at a great distance and seeing the enormity of the universe changes how you look at things. Having participated in the Apollo 11 mission also put me in a position where people value what I have to say about things, and I need to live up to that. It's quite a challenge to be that kind of an emissary and quite a change from being an operator of a machine, whether it's fighter aircraft or a spacecraft.
2. Was being in space ever boring?
There were times when we were not really pressed, so you would kind of gaze around - thinking, what should I be looking at? There was a flight plan, so you could see what was coming up in the next couple of hours, next couple of days. We weren't the most talkative crew that ever came along; when you're involved with something of great significance you occasionally brush it off with some light talk or maybe just clam up and stick with your own thoughts.
3. How did you deal with fear?
It just didn't become a major factor. There was too much to think about. Growing up, I became accustomed to facing things with an optimistic attitude, and flying taught me to be openly alert to anything that might come along. I learned to be very thoughtful in the reactions I took: sometimes you have to be quick, and other times you want to make sure you're not precipitous in making a decision.
4. What do you say to people who believe that space research is not a priority?
The space program has had so many beneficial effects on our lives - our use of satellites for communication, our understanding of weather or what happens when the sun flares. It's a lot more than flying a spacecraft. Space is a foreign environment, with foreign things you have to adapt to. That teaches us a lot.
5. And now you go scuba diving?
I was enamored very early on with the freedom you could have underwater. You get to float around freely yet there's so much to learn about the different fish, and the plants and geology, and the effects of currents. It's an entirely new world underneath the surface of the water. Your attention is focused on what's around you right then, and you're isolated from the problems of the world. Like being in space!
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